Should Canada’s Team make a play for Jake Virtanen?
With each passing day, we get closer to the NHL trade deadline. It’s no surprise then, that possible trade targets are starting to emerge more regularly. What is surprising, however, is the quality young talent that is apparently available.
In the last week, we’ve seen Jonathan Drouin and Kerby Rychel both request trades from their respective teams.
We can add another young name to the list of players possibly on the move: Jake Virtanen.
When the Canucks selected Virtanen at 6th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, they had high hopes for him. But those hopes have vanished over the last week [insert source here]. Players are defined by one play in their careers, and his performance in Canada’s loss to Finland was the only and final straw.
With Virtanen possibly on the move, should the Leafs be interested?
Virtanen has been ridiculed for his performance on a big stage. What better way for him to win back the hearts of Canadians than playing for Canada’s team? All he has to do is have one big Saturday night and all will be forgiven. He’d have to play at a high level in Vancouver for 15 years to reach that same level of forgiveness, and even then he might still be underappreciated.
It’s also a safe guess that Virtanen would love to play here as he is probably a Leafs fan. This is based on the fact that he is Canadian. Yes, he grew up in British Columbia but the Canucks weren’t even a team until 1970 and have never won a Stanley Cup.
For the Leafs, the interest is simple: he’s a big body who can slot into a third line checking role with the possibility of sliding up to the second line when there is an injury to one of Toronto’s talented players who don’t choke in big games like Kasperi Kapanen, who is expected to be a fixture in the top 6 for a long time. Maybe Babcock even considers putting him on William Nylander’s wing as a precautionary toughness measure – like how Luke Gazdic has been deployed in Edmonton at times. This’ll be mostly important if the Leafs ever play Team Switzerland, otherwise he probably stays in the bottom six.
We’ve established Virtanen’s likely interest in the Leafs, and Toronto’s likely interest in Virtanen. So, what would be the cost?
With his stock being low, you’re probably looking at a decent pick and a roster player that the Canucks would covet. A 3rd and Tyler Bozak seems to be a fair offer. Brandon Sutter is out, and even when he comes back the Canucks are thin up front with the impending disintegrations of both Sedins.
Would you do that if you were the Leafs? It’s tough to give up a 1st liner like Bozak, but he likely isn’t part of the long-term plan here in Toronto. He makes a lot more sense for a win-now team like the Canucks, who need a top 6 forward (something that Virtanen probably doesn’t amount to). And don’t forget that Bozak is still young. The 3rd round pick is a bit of a sweetener for the Canucks, who can replenish the cupboards and hope to find a player of Virtanen’s ilk in the third round.
It’s hard to imagine the Canucks moving Virtanen, but a rumour is a rumour – and every player possibly on the move right now is linked to the Leafs. It makes sense that Virtanen could be as well. That said, it would be a complete overreaction by the Canucks to trade Virtanen based on one or two bad plays. A complete overreaction indeed.